Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Best YA Novels: Dystopian/Magical Realism/Science Fiction

To Recap:
Yesterday, I spend much of my day agonizing over my choices for NPR's "Best-Ever Teen Novels" voting.  You can see my process for creating brackets, as well as my fantasy bracket and discussion of fantasy choices here.  Today is the weirdest bracket--this is the one where I think I was the most liberal with my classification, because there are a few on this list that don't fit easily into the other slots I came up with.  So please bear with me!

The Bracket: Dystopian/Magical Realism/Science Fiction

The Gut-Wrenchers: 
  • Right off the bat, Beauty Queens fell to The Hunger Games series.  It had to happen--but Beauty Queens  deserved to advance to at least the second round, I think.  It was an unfortunate match-up; I think both the pageant girls and the tributes would understand.
  • The Scorpio Races vs. The Giver series was a weird one.  See, if it had just been The Giver vs. The Scorpio Races, I would have had to give up on the bracket system entirely, or else just throw my computer out the window.  The Giver is one of my most beloved books of all time, ever, and The Scorpio Races is one of those books that just immediately latches on and feels like it was written just for me.  HOWEVER.  For some bizarre reason, it was entered as a series.  Now, it's true that it has two sequels.  And it's true that I'm salivating over the third sequel, which is coming out soon-ish.  But taken as a whole, I think they actually diminish the power of the first book, which is what allowed The Scorpio Races to take it by a nose. 
  • The Scorpio Races vs. The Book Thief was also really tough.  The Book Thief knocked my socks off in grad school, but I haven't read it since; however, some of my students have (points there) and also it stands out as a singularly sweeping and ambitious entry, especially for a standalone.  So I had to give it the benefit of the doubt.
  • Shatter Me vs. The Divergent series--so unfair!  Unravel Me isn't out yet, and I definitely felt like Insurgent was stronger than Divergent, or at least it made me love it more.  So, that accounts for that win, but the tables could totally be turned after the series are completed.  (OMG MUST READ SEQUELS.)
The Upsets:
  •  Across the Universe vs. Under The Never Sky.  I'm thinking two things:  the freezing business in Across the Universe freaked other people out even more than it freaked me out, and Perry is unquestionably hotter than Elder.   Somehow, though, Across The Universe really won me over (even when I try not to factor in A Million Suns, because for some reason Across the Universe was just on there as a standalone.)
  • Across the Universe vs. the Delirium series.  This one was trickier, because to me, the Delirium series is a really perfect example of dystopian story structure.  Like, that's my go-to model of how to build a dystopian narrative.  But I think Across the Universe edged out a win because the stakes felt even higher: generations born and manipulated within the walls of one spaceship, plus Amy's desire to ever see her parents again just barely wins over an operation to obliterate feelings.  But it's a tough match.
The Votes From This Quarter (out of a total 10)
  • The Hunger Games series (winner)
  • The Divergent series (runner-up)
  • The Scorpio Races (wildcard)  
Check back throughout the week for the rest of the bracket and my overall list!  And I'd love to hear where you disagree!  What dystopian/magical realism/science fiction books from NPR's list would have made your top 16?  Which of these match-ups would you have called differently?

**CALL FOR GUEST POSTS: If you'd like to share your thoughts on any aspect of this NPR event--a bracket of your own, a discussion of your list, books you wish had made the list--email me at to set up a day within the next two weeks!** 

Other Brackets:

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